July 8, 2002


I just finished reading Cemetery Nights, a collection of poems by Stephen Dobyns.

A long time ago Stephen Dobyns had sex in a cabin with a woman (I’ll call her Nina) with whom I had sex some years later. Dobyns was twice Nina’s age at the time and possibly married. I’ve never had sex with someone so much younger than myself, nor would I ever do so, feeling it wrong. Stephen Dobyns doubtless felt differently, or made an exception for Nina, who told me this story so long ago that I’ve forgotten where the cabin was.

I do remember that Stephen Dobyns asked first, outside the cabin. I confess I’ve never done that, although I can see doing it if the woman is as young as Nina was and I am as old as Stephen Dobyns was (which as it happens, I now am). In lieu of asking I simply do what feels right and see what happens. It’s a more subtle approach, although far be it for me to criticize Stephen Dobyns for asking, particularly in a case in which you are (I only just remembered this) the young woman’s poetry teacher at a summer workshop.

Cemetery Nights was published in 1987. Stephen Dobyns slept with Nina sometime around 1977; I slept with her in 1981. I believe I had difficulty maintaining an erection.

A few years later Nina won an Academy Award as a co-producer of something. By chance I visited her soon after, and she brought out the statuette. It looked exactly like an Academy Award statuette. Mila asked if I wanted to hold it, and I said that I did not. By this point I had stopped liking her very much, for reasons I only dimly recall and which in any case no longer matter.

The main reason I read Cemetery Nights was to see if Stephen Dobyns mentions any cabins. He doesn’t.